Why It’s Okay if You Didn’t Read This Year (and What to Do About It)

Mara Franzen

Staff Writer

Mara (They/Them) has accidentally on purpose made their entire life about books and stories. Mara graduated with a B.A in creative writing and theatre and is halfway through an MFA in Creative writing. In addition to writing for Book Riot, Mara also has written for The Independent Book Review, Wargamer, and The Other Half, to name a few. They also work as a fiction editor with The Minison Project. Nearly all of their published articles can be found here.

If you’re anything like me, you’re staring at your Goodreads challenge or reading wishlist for the year and feeling a little guilty about how little you read. Each year I feel so hopeful for the number of books I’m going to read. And then it gets to the end of the year, and my book tally is not where I want it to be.

In the past when I see how far I am from my goal I get very dismayed. I used to love reading! What’s happening to me? Why can’t I sit and speed through books as I used to? I always say that I’m not going to feel guilty for not living up to last year’s goals, but I of course still do a little bit.

It took me a long time to be okay with not reading like I used to. And honestly, after accepting that and going easier on myself, my love of reading started to trickle back in. Am I reading as much as I want to be yet? No! But that’s okay!

Here are some questions I started asking myself about my reading or lack thereof.

Did you not read because you felt like there were books you “had” to read?

If you answered yes, don’t worry! That’s perfectly normal! If you were a big reader as a kid, but have slowed down, or stopped reading, you are not alone. A lot of people lose their desire to read as they get older and start to get told what books they should read.

This could be in a school setting where assigned reading has to take precedence over reading for fun. Or post-school where there are “must-read” reading lists, or celebrity book club picks dominating your social media feeds. Every magazine publishes a list of books to read in your 20s, before your 30s, or before you die. The lists only keep growing and it can get easily overwhelming with all of the books you “should be” reading.

These lists, while meant to be helpful, often only make us feel guilty. We start to worry that if we don’t read this particular book we are going to be left behind or judged. Reading becomes a chore. Instead of loving what you read, you spend all your time reading books that you don’t love but feel like maybe you should because everyone else seems to.

Ignore these lists. Make your own. You don’t owe your free time to anyone.

Look at your shelves and pick three books you want to read. And not books you want to read because someone told you that you should. Books you want to read because they interest you. Once you have read all three of those books (even if they take you almost a full year to do it), then you can read one book you feel like you should.

Let go of reading only books you feel you “should.” You might just remember why you love reading. And, as a bonus, you might meet your reading goal again.

Did you not read because your taste in books is changing?

If you answered yes, don’t worry! That’s perfectly normal! Sometimes it can be hard to find books you actually like. Our tastes change as we get older and that means our taste in books can change as well. If you’ve been struggling to find a new good book, there are a few ways to figure out your reading tastes again.

First things first: identify the genre you used to love. Fiction? Fantasy? Poetry? Romance? Memoirs? Whatever the genre or genres might be, you have to figure out what they are.

The next step is to grab a few books in those genres that used to be your favorites. Flip through and figure out what parts you liked best in that book.

Once you know what elements of your favorite books are still the most interesting to you, start researching other books that have those things in them. Don’t be afraid to try books that are outside of your typical genre. You never know where your next favorite read might be hiding!

Did you not read because life is just too busy?

If you answered yes, don’t worry! That’s perfectly normal! Life gets busy. Our days can fill up really quickly, and often as much as we wish we could read, we just don’t always have time. If time is something that’s contributing to you not reading, don’t despair. There are tons of ways to squeeze reading in.

One of the best ways is audiobooks. You can listen to audiobooks on your commute, while working out, doing household chores, or even playing video games! Don’t listen to anyone who tells you audiobooks don’t count as reading. They absolutely do and can be a great experience.

Another way is to just pick shorter books. Look for some novellas, poetry books, graphic novels, or even just novels on the shorter side. Carry that little book with you everywhere. Whenever you have a spare minute dare yourself to read a chapter. Even if takes you a month to finish a 200-page book, that’s still a whole book you read! Good for you!

Are you not reading because you are reading other stuff?

Guess what? You’re reading right now! Of course, you read this year, even if it doesn’t feel like you did. Just because you didn’t finish a book doesn’t mean you didn’t read. You read a lot! I bet you read social media posts, articles, emails, recipes, and who knows what else.

If you do want to read more books, try and set a timer for yourself. For every ten minutes, you spend scrolling Twitter, spend ten minutes reading a book.

So, look. It’s okay if you didn’t read this year because I bet you actually did. Be kind to yourself! If you want to try and read more, I hope these little tips and tricks help, but at the end of the day don’t worry. Books are very patient, they’ll wait for you!

It’s okay if you didn’t read this year. (I promise.)